Johannesburg – The former chairperson of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, Mike Auret has died.
Auret was also a former member of parliament for the opposition, MDC where he represented Harare West. He cut his political teeth in the seventies when he opposed the then ruling Rhodesian Front. He stood against the party in elections but lost.
A devout Catholic, Auret was married to Diana for 63 years and has left three sons and a daughter who issued the following statement:
A light that shone so brightly with the humility and gentleness of the Saints he so faithfully followed, has finally dimmed. Our much-loved husband, father, grandfather, uncle and brother has gone forward to light the way for us in the dark journey ahead. While our hearts are torn asunder as we face the devastation of his leaving, we celebrate a life lived with such great compassion, activism, meaning, wisdom and above all – with such great love.
Dad was never just ours. We shared him with the Zimbabwe he so loved and fought all his life for, and ultimately with all those whose lives he touched and raised up through the power of his love.
Michael Theodore Hayes Auret was meant to be a catholic priest until he met our mum, Diana, and everything changed. Catholicism, his heroes, Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis and Father Patrick Galvin were the inspiration for his transition from young white farmer trying to make sense of the Rhodesian Civil War to human rights activist. He began by holding the Rhodesian police accountable for the torture of our farm workers, thereafter joining the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP)to expose the atrocities of the senseless war. He also began to oppose the Rhodesian Front politically by standing unsuccessfully as an opposition MP in Bulawayo.
While on a CCJP trip to Rome to discuss peace efforts with the Pope, he was called up to the Rhodesian army. Knowing he could not fight for the Rhodesians he arranged for us to leave the country as refugees and he led us from Rome, through Switzerland and finally to England.
Returning to Zimbabwe at Independence, he threw himself into rebuilding the country with the church and continued his work with CCJP which led him to the work he participated in, with other great Zimbabweans, in the cataloguing of the massacres in Matabeleland contained in the book “Breaking the Silence: Building True Peace.”
Throughout his life in Zimbabwe, he continued to serve and when constitutional discussions took place he was part of the founding of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and served as its vice-chairperson in the first committee under Morgan Tsvangirai. The NCA went on to defeat Mugabe in the only democratic process the opposition was ever allowed to win, the constitutional referendum, pushing back Mugabe’s constitution in 2000.
In the same year, he stood for the opposition MDC in the 2000 elections and won his seat in Parliament for Harare Central.
After his retirement, he continued his love and service to the Catholic church in Ireland where he settled with our mum and his family. He often dwelled on the fight for Zimbabwe and wrote: “From Liberator to Dictator: An insiders account of Robert Mugabe’s descent into tyranny”.
He was always a gentleman, always loving, compassionate and humble. Married to our mum for 63 years, we are all devastated by his passing, but thank God that he chose to take him home after a long and sometimes painful journey, on this day of such significance.
Diana, Peter, Margaret, Stephen and Michael Auret and all our children